David sipped his bitter home-brewed ale and watched the bravest woman in the world dance. Ayana's tattoos glowed yellow in the dimness, tribal shapes and animals prowling on the canvas of her chestnut skin. Behind her, her partner Yan mixed the music, melding beats and chimes and whispers. With a shimmy, Ayana set the wolf from her bicep spiraling across the stage. Growing, shifting, projected larger than life, it charged at the audience. Shadows flickered on the back wall. The beast's eyes glowed red, and the music rose to a howl. Its jaws snapped.
A girl in the front shrieked and scrambled back. A cluster of men jumped, and then laughed at their own surprise, cursing and playfully shoving at each other. Everyone knew it was just a hologram, but even the purely aesthetic implementations of NanT made people nervous. Many people with the aesthetics had died in the Crash, and of those that survived, many more had been murdered by the mobs who believed that anyone who implanted nanotechnology in their bodies wasn't truly human anymore.
Fourteen years later, putting on a show with NanT still risked a mob, even in Providence. But the Firehouse had a reputation for the avant-garde, and the sturdy building was easily defensible. It had served as an emergency shelter for months after the Crash, only slowly returning to use as a nightlife venue. The converted fire station's large open floor was perfect for shows and dance parties. The huge steel garage doors were open to the summer breeze, but David's brother Rich and their cousin Chip stood on the threshold with an eye out for trouble.